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More than 250 cities in North, Central and South America have completed a What Works Cities Assessment to have their data practices benchmarked against the Certification Standard and to understand how to improve. While top-performing cities achieve Certification, the Assessment is for cities at all points in their data journey.

Cities that have completed the Assessment also join their peers in the What Works Cities Certification Community, which equips city staff with the skills, support and capacity they need to work toward to achieve Certification and grow their data practices.

250 cities have completed the Assessment to date

  • Connection with peers
  • Training and coaching
  • Exclusive resources
  • Issue-based sprints
  • Office hours
  • And more

Certification Criteria

What Works Cities Certification is the first-of-its-kind standard of excellence for data-driven, well-managed local government. The program’s 43 criteria outline the best practices for data-driven governance and the critical components that make a well-managed, data-driven city. Additionally, the criteria recognizes that data foundations must be met for a city to move beyond pockets of excellence to citywide scale, sustainability and resident impact.

43 best practice criteria

8 foundational practices

Eight Foundational Practices

Data Management

The practices and policies that support comprehensive management of shared and internal data so local governments can routinely and strategically leverage data for decision making and delivery of data and analytics services.

See Criteria


  • Implementing Data Strategy and Governance
  • Maintaining a Comprehensive Data Inventory
  • Sharing Data
  • Improving Data Quality
  • Protecting Data Privacy and Confidentiality
  • Managing Data Security
  • Qualitative Data Practices
  • Disaggregated Data for Decision-Making
  • Data Service Standard

Rigorous Evaluations

Systematic assessments using standard research methods to help local governments gain insights into the design, implementation, or effects of a policy, program, or practice, and make continual improvements.

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  • Establishing City-Wide Evaluation Commitments
  • Launching Rigorous Evaluations
  • Using Rigorous Evaluations to Make Decisions
  • Adopting Evidence-Based Programs

Leadership and Capacity

A strong foundation for the effective use of data and evidence to drive decision-making in local governments starts with the chief executive and local government leadership routinely accessing data for decision-making and explicitly communicating and demonstrating to staff that governing with data and evidence is an organizational expectation.

See Criteria


  • Executive Commitment to Data-Informed Government
  • Use of Public Communications
  • Data Workforce Culture and Trainings
  • Performance Management Leadership
  • Data Leadership
  • Rigorous Evaluation Leadership & Expertise
  • Results-Driven Contracting Leadership

Open Data

The practice of proactively making electronic data records publicly available – in whole or in part – and legally open without restriction on use or re-use. Included in this practice is the creation of sustainable open data systems that promote informed decision-making, transparency, and robust resident engagement.

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  • Open Data Policy
  • User Guidance for Open and Shared Data
  • Open Data Portal
  • User Insights About Open and Shared Data

Performance & Analytics

The practice of studying how to perform better and inserting those insights into the operational decision-making process, solving local government problems through performance management systems and the use of analyses, and creating a culture of accountability.

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  • Selecting and Using Performance Metrics for Strategic Goals and Priorities
  • Implementing Performance Management
  • Sharing Goals and Progress
  • Performance Management Leadership
  • Sharing Goals and Progress
  • Evaluating Disparate Impact of Automated Decisions
  • Using Analysis in Decisions

Data-Driven Budgeting & Finance

A strategic process that local governments use to incorporate data and evidence and align strategic priorities and metrics with financial decisions, including the budget process, expenditures, allocations, and strategic investments, and to shift funding and resources from ineffective programs and services, to those that are evidence-based and resident-focused.

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  • Data-Driven Budget and Financial Processes
  • Data-Driven Budget and Financial Decisions
  • Leveraging Funds for Outcomes
  • Performance Management Leadership

Results-Driven Contracting

A set of strategies to structure, evaluate, and actively manage contracts strategically, using data to help local governments leverage procurement as a tool to make progress on their highest priority goals.

See Criteria


  • Defining Goals for Key Procurements
  • Managing Outcomes for Key Procurements
  • Assessing Vendor Performance
  • Structuring Procurements to Support Strategic Goals
  • Using Data to Manage Contracts and Improve Outcomes and Performance
  • Making Informed Contracting Decisions
  • Open and Shared Procurement Data
  • Supporting Vendor Participation and Competition

Stakeholder Impact

Practices related to the city government’s role as a leader within the broader ecosystem of data-driven decision-making and in training and collaborating with internal and external stakeholders to build use of city data and analytics services to deepen community impact.

See Criteria


  • Community Data Training and Collaboration
  • Analytics Service Delivery
  • Promotion of Data & Evidence

What Works Cities Certification is open to all cities in North, Central and South America with a population of at least 30,000 interested in improving their data practices.

Cities with populations of 30,000 + can apply

Ready for the Assessment